Page images
PDF
EPUB

If the sight clearly distinguishes what the coming words are, it gives time to order the modulation of the voice, to express them properly.

But if they are obscurely printed, or disguised : by omitting the capitals and long f's, or other

wise, the reader is apt to modulate wrong, and finding he has done so, he is obliged to go back and begin the sentence again ; which lessens the pleasure of the hearers. This leads me to mention an old error in our mode of printing. We are sensible that when a question is met with in the reading, there is a proper variation to be used in the management of the voice. We have, therefore, a point, called an interrogation, affixed to the question, in order to distinguish it. But this is absurdly placed at its end, so that the read. er does not discover it till he finds that he has wrongly modulated his voice, and is therefore obliged to begin again the sentence. To prevent this, the Spanish printers, more sensibly, place an interrogation at the beginning as well as at the end of the question. We have another error of the same kind in printing plays, where some thing often occurs that is marked aś spoken aside. But the word aside is placed at the end of the speech, when it ought to precede it, as a direction to the reader, that he may govern his voice accordingly. The practice of our ladies in meet. ing five or six together, to form little busy par. ties, where each is employed in some y efui work, while one reads to them, is so commendable in itself, tliat it deserves the attention of authors

E

and printers to make it as pleasing as possible, both to the reader and hearers.

My best wishes attend you, being, with sin. cere esteem, Sir,

Your most obedient and
very humble servant,

B. FRANKLIN.

AN ACCOUNT OF THE HIGHEST COURT OF
JUDICATURE IN PENNSYLVANIA.

-yiz.
THE COURT OF THE PRESS.

Power of this court. IT may receive and promulgate accusations of all kinds, against all persons and characters among the citizens of the state, and even against all inferior courts; and may judge, sentence, and condemn to infainy, not only private individuals, but public bodies, &c. with or without inquiry or hearing, at the court's discretion. Whose favour, or for whose emoluments this court

is established. In favour of about one citizen in five hundred, who, by education, or practice in scribbling, has acquired a tolerable style as to grammar and construction, so as to bear printing; or who' is possessed of a press and a few types. This í. 2 hundredth part of the citizens have the privilege of accusing and abusing the other four hundred and ninety-nine parts at their pleasure; or they may hire out their

pens
and

press to others, for

that purpose.

Practice of this court. It is not governed by any of the rules of the common courts of law. The accused is allowed no grand jury to judge of the truth of the accusation before it is publicly made ; nor is the name of the accuser made known to him; nor has he. an opportunity of confronting the witnesses against him, for they are kept in the dark, as in the Spanish court of inquisition. Nor is there any petty jury of his peers sworn to try the truth of the charges. The proceedings are also sometimes so rapid, that an honest good citizen may find himself suddenly and unexpectedly accused, and in the same morning judged and condemned, and sentence pronounced against him that he is a rogue and a villain. Yet if an officer of this court receives the slightest check for misconduct in this his office, he claims immediately the rights of a free citizen by the constitution, and demands to know his accuser, to confront the witnesses, and to have a fair trial by a jury of his peers.

The foundation of its authority. It is said to be founded on an article in the state constitution, which establishes the liberty of the press-a liberty which every Pennsylvanian would fight and die for, though few of us, I believe, have distinct ideas of its nature and extent. It seems, indeed, somewhat like the liberty of the press that felons have; by the common law of England before conviction, that is, to be either pressed to death or hanged. If by the liberty of the press, were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public

measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please ; but if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating, and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law; and shall cheerfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others, for the privilege of not being abused myself. By whom this court is commissioned or constituted.

It is not any commission from the supreme executive council, who might previously judge of the abilities, integrity, knowledge, &c. of the persons to be appointed to this great trust of deciding upon the characters and good fame of the citizens : for this court is above that council, and may accuse, judge, and condemn it at pleas

Nor is it hereditary, as is the court of dernier resort in the peerage of England. But any man who can procure pen, ink, and paper, with a press, a few types, and a huge pair of blacking balls, may commissionate himself, and his court is immediately established in the plenary possession and exercise of its rights. For if you make the least complaint of the judge's conduct, he daubs his blacking balls in your face wherever he meets you, and besides tearing your private character in splinters, marks you out for the odi. um of the public, as an enemy to the liberty of

ure.

the press.

Of the natural support of this court.
Its support is founded in the depravity of such

minds as have not been mended by religion, nor improved by good education.

Of loudly publishing his neighbour's shame.

There is a lust in man no charm can tame,

Hence,

On eagles' wings, immortal, scandals fly,
While virtuous actions are but born and die.

DRYDEN

reverse,

Whoever feels pain in hearing a good character of his neighbour, will feel a pleasure in the

And of those who, despairing to rise to distinction by their virtues, are happy if oth. ers can be depressed to a level with themselves, there are a number sufficient in every great town to maintain one of these courts by their subscription. A shrewd observer once said, that in walking in the streets of a slippery morning, one might see where the good-natured people lived, by the ashes thrown on the ice before the doors; probably he would have formed a different conjecture of the temper of those whom he might find engaged in such subscriptions. Of the checks proper to be established against the

abuses of power in those courts. Hitherto there are none. But since so much has been written and published on the federal constitution; and the necessity of checks, in all other parts of good government, has been so clearly and learnedly explained, I find myself so far enlightened aś to suspect some check may be proper in this part also, but I have been at loss to imagine any that may not be construed an infringement of the sacred liberty of the press. At length, however, I think I have found one,

« PreviousContinue »